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October 16, 2000 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Potential WCW sale, New Japan vs. All Japan, plus more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN1083-9593 October 16, 2000

With its wrestlers in Australia and its front office personnel in a total state of uncertainty, media reports continued hot and heavy regarding a potential imminent sale of World Championship Wrestling.

While virtually all reports listed Mandalay Sports as the prime suitor, with a group headed by Eric Bischoff, most of the talk over the weekend involved a longshot in the deal which has been rumored for some time, the potential of the World Wrestling Federation buying out its long-time competitor, particularly after a story on 10/9 in Multi Channel News.

Based on sources very close to the details of the potential sale, no deal has been finalized at press time. Both companies, and perhaps others, are involved in various degrees of negotiations to purchase the company from Turner Broadcasting, which has owned the company since buying out Jim Crockett Promotions in late 1988. Those close to the negotiations expect a deal finalized within the next two weeks. Due to all the uncertainty among the talent, Terry Taylor called Brad Siegel from Australia and held a meeting on 10/8 with talent. At the meeting, Taylor said Siegel had told him there were four companies looking at buying the promotion, mentioning Mandalay Sports and Bischoff along with groups from Japan, Germany and France. The WWF was never mentioned. Taylor also said Siegel said it was not a given that the company would even be sold, but that they are entertaining the offers. Kevin Nash, who tried to joke through the meeting, noted immediately that the last time Siegel addressed rumors of an impending sale, that he said the company was not for sale, basically ruining the credibility of everything that was said. While some talent had certainly heard the McMahon rumors for at least a week, when the talent left on 10/4 from Los Angeles to Australia, all of the talk regarded Bischoff buying the company, which caused a mixed reaction, and most had not heard anything serious, if anything at all, about a possible sale to WWFE. Some felt the current team in charge and the direction of the product was a loser and were excited to get on with business fresh with at least a new direction. Others, particularly those who had worked with Bischoff in the past, remember the periods both when business was strong, and when it wasn't, as far as dealing with Bischoff himself, who is generally knocked for having poor skills in dealing with talent. And others, because many of the wrestlers are loyal to Vince Russo for their first break and with belief that Russo would be gone if Bischoff is hired, were unhappy because of the belief Bischoff would build around the wrestlers Russo had taken off television and their personal TV time would be cut back.

Vince McMahon, nor other WWF sources, either confirmed or denied interest in acquiring WCW or negotiations having taken place. Those close to the negotiations themselves indicate there has been interest by the WWF, but the general feeling for numerous reasons is that a group headed by Bischoff at this point appears to be the favorite.

It is believed the Bischoff/Mandalay group would be composed of outside financing, and would create a new company, run by Bischoff himself, to run the wrestling end. Bischoff is said to have been able to sell the idea that there is a lot of money to be made in the PPV, merchandising and licensing of a well run wrestling product. Observer sources indicate reports of SFX, which had looked into buying the company earlier this year, being part of the Bischoff group, are incorrect. Several published reports that the Bischoff group would be able to negotiate an interpromotional angle with the WWF leading to joint PPV shows are also believed to be something that would be next to impossible. It has also been rumored throughout wrestling, and reported in the Multi Channel News article, that WWFE has the right to match any purchase offer as part of its settlement with Turner Broadcasting and WCW in the copyright infringement lawsuit. The lawsuit settlement has been sealed, but there are indications that story may not be accurate, although it certainly has been rumored within wrestling for some time. McMahon, in the early 90s, when the gap between the two companies was much closer than it is today, turned down several offers from WCW for doing an interpromotional angle, including offers by WCW, giving him complete creative control in the booking of the angle, which would have allowed him to book his own company's superiority and book the feud as one-sided as he would have liked.

It is believed that Turner Broadcasting is insistent, no matter who the company is sold to, that it would retain the prime time television shows on its two stations, TNT (for the next 18 or so months before that station changes its focus and Nitro would be expected to move to TBS) and TBS, but wants out of the financial obligations of the company as a whole because it could impede the Time Warner/AOL merger.

On the surface, with the start of the XFL in February as well as starting up a new record label and other new divisions, it seems WWFE has enough on its plate without attempting to rebuild a faltering brand. At the current rate of WCW losses ($70 million this year), combined with the projected XFL losses from WWFE's 50 percent ownership ($40 million) would exceed expected WWFE profits for this year (estimated in the low $70 million range), which could result in yet another unfavorable reaction on Wall Street coming off the heels of the drop in stock prices last week.

On the positive side for WWF, if McMahon were to purchase the company, he would get the satisfaction of buying out Turner, who he's had a long-time hatred of, and finally, after 18 years, having the real monopoly of the North American pro wrestling industry that has been his apparent goal from the start, as he already has a working relationship with ECW. He would be able to move Nitro from Monday, which would increase the ratings on Raw, at least theoretically. He would be able to have more hours of television time to sell. He would be able to do an interpromotional angle, although the idea that doing one right now with WCW in the state it's in would be one year early as the company needs to be rebuilt as just straight WWF PPV shows with current WWF angles at this point would do more business than any interpromotional matches, as the only WCW wrestler who could draw bigger business against the top WWF names than they already could with each other, Bill Goldberg, needs to be rebuilt first. He can also trade wrestlers back-and-forth, creating big raids on each side that could lead to an overall gain in interest level as what occurred in the 1995-1998 boom period where both companies fighting garnered a huge increase in the number of wrestling fans overall, a number that has dropped significantly over the past year. It would be in his best interest to keep the companies separate, a strategy he decided against in 1984 when he purchased a majority interest in Georgia Championship Wrestling, at the time the supplier of wrestling programming on TBS, and promptly folded the company, buried the few wrestlers who he did get in the purchase (most of the wrestlers either went to other NWA offices like the Carolinas, or remained in the area working for a new company that Ole Anderson and some of the GCW stockholders that didn't sell in the hostile takeover put together). McMahon put his own WWF programming, taped from outside Georgia, in its time slots, which resulted in the problems with Ted Turner and McMahon which McMahon was able to make appear legendary in the press. For the first time since 1985, when he was about to get kicked off TBS and then Jim Barnett brokered a deal to where he sold his rights to air wrestling on the station to Jim Crockett, McMahon would have control of all the major league wrestling and all the strongest stations broadcasting wrestling at one time. The belief is, should the unlikely scenario of McMahon getting the company occur, Bischoff, in 2001, would with FOX, start a competing company using mainly wrestlers McMahon decides against using.

The negative side is larger. McMahon and his creative staff would have to produce several more hours more of first run programming each week. There is also the situation involving the WCW contracts. The top wrestlers in the company are under contract to Turner Broadcasting, and not WCW. The deals, at least as it pertains to guaranteed money and fewer number of dates per year, are far superior on paper to the WWF contracts even though with the WWF business booming as it is, the top WWF performers are earning as much as the highest paid WCW performers and it is believed Dwayne Johnson this year will earn more than Terry Bollea, although the gap is certainly closer than it should be given the amount of money each man respectively drew. While the WWF dressing room, mainly composed of younger wrestlers, is a harder working and more harmonious dressing room than the company has ever had, the idea that wrestlers who perceive themselves as being loyal to the company, would have weaker contracts than others who basically are seen as lazy and did nothing but killed the other company, would create a terribly divisive attitude.

It is believed the odds of Vince Russo remaining if either Bischoff or McMahon get control of the product are small. Unless the entire Russo/Bischoff split was a work (the angle where Hogan beat Jarrett, who laid down with Russo telling him to, was almost surely a work, but what happened after that point is more open to speculation) to create a Hogan vs. Russo angle, at which point Russo's credibility with the wrestlers would be shot, he would seem doomed in a company Hogan would have a major role in and with what appears to be a total lack of faith in his ability from Bischoff, who if it wasn't an angle, walked away to give Russo full control with the belief it would be a miserable failure. Many of the wrestlers still support him despite the numbers, although his support among those in the office is nil, because of those same numbers. He gave the younger guys television time, and he's actually popular because the dead house show business has resulted in fewer days on the road for the wrestlers, and he removed unpopular wrestlers like Hogan, DDP and Lex Luger from the key spots and gave many of wrestlers their first break. Some even champion his cause based on clinging to the belief his probable work with Hogan, which appears to have been designed at the start to partially rally the wrestlers around him with Hogan's blessing to work the boys, just as Hogan gave Nash in late 1998 when he took over as booker in return for Hogan getting a vacation and coming back strong on his own terms when returning, was actually legitimate from start to finish. Most in the company, and even listeners of WCW Live, which Russo appeared on several times in the past week, got the impression Russo believed his days were numbered. His final appearance gave everyone the impression he was desperately kissing up to McMahon looking for a way back, something that would be difficult given the WWF front office and some of the wrestlers' reactions to Russo's statements while leaving and over the past year, and the general satisfaction among those on the other side to his falling flat on his face.

Russo himself is said to have expected the sale to go through this past week which explains his actions, including not going on the trip to Australia. Russo had told people that if he didn't go to Australia, there would be a staff meeting on 10/6. Nobody was ever informed of a meeting, and Russo didn't even return to Atlanta, having stayed out West to see the San Francisco Giants vs. New York Mets playoff series.

The easy one is in the books and now the real test of the All Japan vs. New Japan feud will start.

Pitting All Japan's biggest star, Toshiaki Kawada, in his first singles match against a wrestler from New Japan, IWGP heavyweight champ Kensuke Sasaki, packed the Tokyo Dome for the 10/9 "Do Judge" show with Kawada going over as expected in the non-title match, but in a surprise, Sasaki after the show then vacated the title, saying that since he lost cleanly, he didn't feel he should hold a world heavyweight title.

It was the original plan for Kawada to win the Triple Crown tournament, which ends on 10/28 at Budokan Hall, and then headline the Dome on 1/4 in a rematch with Sasaki. There was a plan on tap for this to lead to a second Dome show on 1/28, honoring Shohei Baba, which would be the week of both the second anniversary of Baba's death (January 31, 1999) and of what would have been his 63rd birthday (January 23, 1938), where Kawada would honor Baba by coming to the ring holding not only the Triple Crown title but also the IWGP heavyweight title, something no wrestler in the history of Japanese wrestling due to the political boundaries has ever held at the same time. In accordance with that, New Japan President Tatsumi Fujinami announced the IWGP belt would be decided in a tournament, and the winner would face winner of the Triple Crown tournament to determine the first ever All Japan/New Japan unified world champion on one of the two January Dome shows.

In what was reported as a main event that lived up to expectations, Kawada pinned Sasaki in 15:38 after a lariat and five high kicks in an ultra stiff match. Kawada was apparently knocked out early on from a stiff punch and couldn't remember anything about the match after it was over. The match came in with high expectations with the pressure of being the "dream match," but delivered with many talking as if it was Sasaki's best singles match of his career and some were talking match of the year after it was over.

After ticket sales got off to a disappointing start, the show ended up being the 13th largest verifiable crowd in the history of pro wrestling, drawing a sellout 64,000 fans paying an estimated $5.8 million. The show wasn't broadcast on PPV, for reasons I'm not entirely clear of although I guess because TV-Asahi, which aired the three matches from the show at 11 p.m. that evening (Kawada vs. Sasaki, Masahiro Chono & Mr. T vs. Shiro Koshinaka & Masa Fuchi and Shinya Hashimoto vs. Tatsumi Fujinami), wanted to have the first broadcast. It likely would have been the biggest PPV event ever in Japan. The next PPV will be 12/14 from Osaka Furitsu Gym. Tentative idea is to put the winner of the New Japan Super Grade Tag Team tournament against the winner of the All Japan Real World Tag League on that show.

The nearly four-hour show was reported as largely a success, with a very strong first half of the show, largely based around the New Japan wrestlers. Aside from the main event, the All Japan vs. New Japan portion of the show after intermission was something of a disappointment. All Japan ended up winning two out of the three interpromotional matches, with Steve Williams pinning Scott Norton, while Chono & T, who turned out to be Tatsutoshi Goto, beat Koshinaka (New Japan wrestler put on the All Japan side for this feud) & Fuchi. Both of those matches were said to be not good. A fourth scheduled interpromotional match, Yutaka Yoshie vs. Taiyo Kea, was canceled the day before as Kea suffered a serious pelvis injury while competing and winning a Royal Rumble at the All Japan show at Korakuen Hall, somehow it was said doing his Hawaiian crusher finisher on Shigeo Okumura in the final. Kea was taken to the hospital and was expected to remain there until the early part of this week. Early estimates are that he'll be out of action for the rest of the year. Originally Kea was expected to be Kawada's tag team partner in the All Japan tag team tournament.

The next round of the feud is expected to take place on the All Japan show on 10/21 at Nagoya Aiichi Gym with three interpromotional matches--Johnny Smith vs. Michiyoshi Ohara, Williams & Nobutaka Araya vs. Goto & Satoshi Kojima and Kawada & Fuchi & Koshinaka vs. Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hiro Saito, the main event being the first time Kawada will ever face Chono to build for the two in an eventual singles program.

1. Shinya Hashimoto defeated Tatsumi Fujinami in 14:18. Hashimoto, in his first match back since announcing his worked retirement after the 4/7 loss to Naoya Ogawa, did the gimmick starting from the opening match. He was said to be in size, somewhere in between the 300+ he had been at his heaviest, and the 250 he was when he made his comeback this year. Hashimoto was actually crying at the pop when he came out. Fujinami was bleeding from the mouth from hard chops. Hashimoto was said to have looked good, but Fujinami at his age is very limited and it was said to be nothing special as a match. Hashimoto won with a DDT followed by a chicken wing submission.

2. Jushin Liger (Keiichi Yamada) pinned Super Delfin (Hiro Wakida) in 13:43. Delfin did a lot of flying moves. Match said to be good, but nothing special. Liger's style now is best suited as being an underdog against the heavyweights because he can't do the high flying junior heavyweight style due to all his injuries and he also physically looks too powerful for the smaller junior heavies. Liger scored the pin after three palm blows and a brainbuster.

3. Don Frye defeated Takashi Iizuka (Takayuki Iizuka) in 4:47 with a series of punches and a choke finish. Iizuka is a good worker at this style and it was said to be a good match building around legit moves and Vale Tudo positioning.

4. Tatsuhito Takaiwa retained the IWGP jr. title pinning Koji Kanemoto in 12:51. Very good match, as you'd expect. Kanemoto worked on Takaiwa's legs most of the way and Takaiwa came back with his signature power moves, scoring the pin after several lariats and a death valley bomb.

5. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (Kim Kil Choi) & Satoshi Kojima retained the IWGP tag team titles beating Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi in 20:22 in what was said to be an excellent match. New Japan wanted Katsuhiko Nagata to accompany Nagata & Nakanishi to ringside with his silver medal, but the Tokyo Police Department, where Nagata works, was against the idea of a police officer participating in the pro wrestling industry, which speaks volumes about the image of pro wrestling in Japan. They also never got the approval of the Japanese amateur wrestling association, although New Japan did bring much of the Olympic wrestling team to a show before the games, with Nagata getting a big pop, in exchange for a donation. Both teams at various points teased break-ups, including Nakanishi racking Nagata, but then throwing him onto the other guys as a teased split. Final saw Kojima pin Nagata to win.

6. Steve Williams pinned Scott Norton in 12:56. Williams needs a good opponent to have a good match, and Norton can't even have a good match with a good opponent, and that tells you what you need to know. Of course the two big guys did pound on each other hard. They also both seemed to tire. Williams won after a doctor bomb and two back suplexes.

7. Chono & Mr. T (Goto) beat Fuchi & Koshinaka in 12:38. It was immediately evident that Mr. T was Goto, by his distinctive wobbling walk (beginning stages of Terry Funk, minus all of Funk's ability, psychology and charisma). Goto was wearing an old Strong Machine mask, which was popularized again earlier this year when Kazushi Sakuraba came out wearing it before his match with Royce Gracie. This apparently is a New Japan angle as Junji Hirata, who was the original Strong Machine and later Super Strong Machine in the 80s and early 90s, ended up in Koshinaka's corner, even though that was the All Japan team going against Team 2000. Fans were chanting "Goto" at him from the moment he came out. The New Japan fans booed Fuchi big-time. Match ended when Chono gave Koshinaka his Yakuza kick, and then T pinned him after a lariat. After the match ended, T gave Koshinaka his trademark dangerous back suplex, which led to Hirata doing a run-in and grabbing the mic and saying that he was Goto, which everyone had already figured out by this point.

8. Kawada pinned Sasaki in 15:38. A very stiff match which was said to be excellent. Kawada twice caught Sasaki in his stretch plum submission, but since that move hasn't worked since the early 90s, it didn't get a big reaction. Sasaki twice got Kawada in the scorpion deathlock before the finishing sequence.

The status of Edouardo Anibal Gonzalez Hernandez (Juventud Guerrera) in World Championship Wrestling is in serious jeopardy following his arrest after going berserk in an apparent drug induced rage on 10/7 at the Marriott Hotel in Brisbane, Australia the morning before the Nitro taping and first show of the tour.

Gonzalez, 24, was arrested after police officers using capsicum spray as he had stripped himself naked and was throwing chairs and screaming obscenities and threatening to kill himself near the hotel restaurant. WCW officials called police when they were unable to control him at about 10:40 a.m. as he was stripping his clothes off at the hotel in front of wrestlers, patrons and autograph seekers while people were eating breakfast at the restaurant hotel, and swearing and yelling at wrestlers and office people including Oscar Gutierrez (Rey Misterio Jr.), Charles Ashenoff (Konnan), Terry Taylor and Glen Gilbertti (Disqo). Several of the wrestlers and WCW officials tried to get him under control, and failing to do so, Taylor called for the police. The situation was said by one official to be scary to the point they were afraid his reaction to the drugs was potentially life threatening based on comments he was making, and they were unable to get him in his hotel room where it wouldn't become a public and media spectacle. There was also some fear even if they got him in his room, he'd try and jump out the window and kill himself. Some put heat on WCW officials who called police, Taylor in particular, as opposed to settling it in quietly, and on everyone involved for not subduing Gonzalez, being that he's not a big guy, but not among those close to the situation. All attempts to control him failed as he was wildly throwing blows at anyone who came near him.

Media beat police to the hotel, and the Ch. 7 news showed police dragging the unclothed 165 pound wrestler out of the building. In what onlookers said was a scene reminiscent of a pro wrestling high spot, when the first three officers were unable to control him physically, one sprayed mace at him, which he ducked, and it went in the eyes of another officer. Several bystanders at the hotel were also affected by the spray.

Gonzalez was violently throwing punches and kicks at three of the six officers who were needed to finally take him to the ground and detain him, including one punch breaking the rib of a female officer.

He was taken to jail and held until a hearing on 10/9. While in jail, police found two green ecstasy tablets in his sock. Those close to the situation attributed his behavior not necessarily to ecstasy as has been publicized in the Australian media, but believe a second drug was actually responsible or it was a reaction of a combination of the second drug with the ecstasy, the latter of which is a popular party drug among some of the younger wrestlers in the company. The belief is because ecstasy doesn't usually send people into violent rages. Because he was so hard to handle, it was speculated something he smoked was unknowingly laced with PCP or acid. Gonzalez himself said he smoked something at a night club a few hours earlier that was given to him by someone, and believed whatever it was, caused him to lose his mind and he was very embarrassed by his behavior. Peter Shields, who represented Gonzalez at the hearing, was able to convince the court to not put a conviction on his record because it would threaten his career, which requires international travel. Shields argued Gonzalez was a Mexican native and the sole provider for his family of a wife and a child and pro wrestling was the only profession he knew. He said Gonzalez was out celebrating with other wrestlers on the tour and had accepted the drugs and described what happened as a severe reaction.

At the hearing, Gonzalez plead guilty in Brisbane Magistrates Court to two counts of assaulting police and one count each of disorderly conduct, indecent exposure and possession of a dangerous drug. He was ordered to pay $2,050 in fines and pay $1,400 in compensation to the three officers he attacked, which works out to a total of about $1,850 in U.S. currency.

Gonzalez showed up on his own late the prior evening at a night club that at least a half dozen of the WCW wrestlers were at, where he allegedly got whatever it was that he smoked. He went back to the hotel with the group but was out of control that next morning in the hotel lobby.

He was screaming, saying things like, "I'm gonna die. It's my turn to go." He wanted some of the wrestlers with him, including telling Gutierrez and Ashenoff to take their clothes off, which they wouldn't do in a public place. He began stripping, saying, "This is how I came into this world and this is how I want to go out." When the two wrestlers tried to control him, he threw hard punches at both of his best friends in the company, and grabbed both of their glasses and broke them and threw Ashenoff's glasses in Taylor's face when he tried to intervene. David Finlay, a known tough guy, who was on tour as an agent, showed up, but he couldn't control him either.

He was sent home after the court case and there was much speculation he would be fired for his actions, but at press time, nothing was officially said.

It has been almost tradition to have some sort of embarrassing public flare ups on international wrestling tours, due to being away from home and the wrestlers seeing such tours as one giant party. Memorable incidents have included Leon White's (Vader) arrest in Kuwait after snatching a host on a television show, Sid Eudy's (Sid Vicious) violent hotel room brawl with Marty Lunde (Arn Anderson) in England which saw Lunde stabbed numerous times with scissors, and Scott Hall being not allowed to leave England earlier this year by airport authorities causing him to miss a Nitro just six days before a PPV show that he was scheduled to main event.

For Gonzalez, who may be the most talented in-ring performer in the company, this incident could threaten his future, particularly because it can't be dismissed as an isolated incident in a company filled with problems stemming from lack of internal discipline. Gonzalez, who started wrestling professionally at the age of 15 and was something of a child prodigy in the business, goes back-and-forth between Chula Vista, CA and Mexico City as his home base, but is a citizen of Mexico whose father is a Mexican wrestling legend under the ring name and mask as Fuerza Guerrera. Earlier this year it was feared he would be deported from the United States stemming from trying to escape from police in a movie car chase scene after a television taping in State College, PA in a DUI case, but his lawyer was able to argue to allow him to plea bargain to allow him to remain in the country and keep his job. In another incident last year, Gonzalez and Dionicio Castellanos (Psicosis) were driving wildly in a parking lot and accidentally ran into and injured the knee of Robert James Jr. (Brad Armstrong), who required surgery. Ironically, the expected sale of the company may save his job, because new owners would possibly start everyone with a clean slate, especially since Gonzalez is popular among the rest of the crew, and would be very valuable to a company wanting to rebuild based on presenting a quality in-ring product. At the same time, the lack of discipline within the ranks has created the attitude that was one of the reasons the company went down in the first place, and tolerance of things like this for someone who has already had legal trouble sends a dangerous message to the crew about what is considered tolerable behavior within the company on the road.

One interpromotional angle will be taking place in the United States this year. That involves the two companies that have run head-to-head on television in Memphis--Memphis Championship Wrestling, which is run partially as a WWF developmental territory, and Power Pro Wrestling, which was a WWF developmental territory before Jerry Lawler switched sides and took the WWF affiliation with him.

As had been pushed for several weeks on the PPW show, Jerry Lawler returned on the live 10/6 show. Lawler, in an interview, claimed the reason he left PPW was because people like Brandon Baxter, Derrick King and Randy Hales were wrestling in the main events while people like Kurt Angle and Mic Tierney, who were there at the same time, weren't getting a big push. Lawler started knocking the promotion, which brought out Brandon Baxter, Derrick King, Rob Harlem, Koko Ware and Charlie Laird at various points to argue with him. Lawler wouldn't stop knocking the promotion and the PPW guys threatened to throw him out of the building. Lawler said they could try it, but if they did, he'd bring some friends with him to the studio next week. The PPW guys all attacked Lawler, ripping his shirt off and throwing him out of the studio with his shoulder going through a glass door, which no doubt leads to some WWF people or at least MCW people under WWF contract showing up next week.

The RINGS second annual shoot King of Kings tournament, after the first of three shows on 10/9 at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym II before a legitimate sellout of 4,600 fans, is already anti-climactic with its top draw, Kiyoshi Tamura, having been eliminated on the first night.

Tamura scored an impressive first round win via decision over Grom Zaza (Zaza Tkeschelaschvili), a 1996 Olympic freestyle wrestler, who was a late replacement for American indie pro wrestler Brad Kohler. While booking Kohler, a powerhouse who had suffered some recent defeats, against a much smaller Tamura was a no-win situation on paper for RINGS, in a sense, booking Zaza, a superior wrestler to Kohler with a 50-pound weight edge, who has also suffered recent losses, was even worse. Still, Tamura scored a unanimous decision, before losing to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who he was giving away 30 pounds to, via an armbar submission in just 2:29 in his second round match.

Nogueira of Brazil looked very impressive throughout last year's tournament, before being eliminated in a bad decision against eventual tournament winner Dan Henderson in the semifinals. He was joined by Americans Dave Menne and Randy Couture and RINGS regular Valentijn Overeem of The Netherlands in advancing to the final eight of the tournament which takes place on 2/24 at Tokyo Sumo Hall. The crowd was considered a strong sign that RINGS now has a strong core of fans, since it was drawn head-to-head with the historic Kawada-Sasaki match taking place just a few miles away and it was a show that nobody expected to sellout and thus many fans were turned away and even the scalpers were looking for tickets. However, unless a Japanese wrestler can advance out of the Osaka tournament, it is believed the lack of a Japanese draw in the final eight would make the 11,000-seat Sumo Hall a much more difficult sell.

A second tournament with a new group of 16 participants will take place on 12/22 at Osaka Furitsu Gym. The four survivors from that tournament join the aforementioned quartet in a one-night eight-man tournament to determine the championship.

Menne, who had made a reputation in the past year as one of the better lighter weight fighters in the world, won a unanimous decision over RINGS regular Wataru Sakata in the first round and then upset former Brazilian World Jiu Jitsu champion Roberto Traven in an overtime decision after all three judges ruled it a draw after two rounds (15:00). Traven, with a 42 pound weight advantage, still couldn't take Menne down, and Menne was a stronger striker

Overeem won his first round match over the most heralded RINGS newcomer, Suren Balachinskiy, who was brought in billed as the best sambo wrestler in the world, and as far as being in his prime, the best pure sambo wrestler ever to compete in mixed martial arts after winning world championships in both 1998 (198 pounds) and 1999 (220 pounds). However, pure sambo alone is no longer enough, since Balachinskiy was unable to take Overeem down, and in a striking match, his incomplete skills did him in. Overeem stopped him with leg kicks in just 2:13. Overeem then scored a major upset over Renato Babalu, who went to the finals of the 32-man tournament last year before losing to Dan Henderson, with the kickboxing specialist catching the submission specialist in an ankle lock in 2:19.

Couture, a world class wrestler, former UFC heavyweight champion, and upcoming challenger on 11/17 to Kevin Randleman for that same title, defeated another UFC regular, Jeremy Horn, in his first match, said to technically be the best match on the show. Couture, who showed tremendous cardio all night, won both rounds on one judges ballot, but the other two had the fight as a draw after 15:00, and because two judges ruled it a draw, they went into an overtime. All three judges gave Couture the decision and it was said to be pretty clear cut in the overtime. Couture got a decision over Ryushi Yanagisawa, the former Pancrase fighter making his RINGS debut, in his second round match. Yanagisawa had debuted beating Borislav Jealiazkov with an ankle lock in 3:45. When Yanagisawa won, Frank Shamrock, who was at the show, hit the ring to congratulate him as both were friends from the original Pancrase days. Couture was praised for his strategy in adapting to the RINGS rules and changing his battle plan for two entirely different foes. He had Henderson, last year's champion, in his corner.

Nogueira, who realistically was the most impressive fighter in last year's tournament, remained with his strong reputation intact, being the only fighter to score two submissions, first beating Russian Labazanov Arhmed with an armbar in 1:38, before catching Tamura also with an armbar.

Overall it was reported as one of the best shows in RINGS history, but that 12 matches and four hours may be too long.

Smackdown on 10/5 drew a 5.0 rating and an 8 share, finishing third in the prime-time race in the first hour behind Millionaire (13.7) and two rerun episodes of Friends (8.4 and 10.1) and third in the second hour behind ABC and NBC airings of the Vice Presidential debates (6.2 and 5.5 respectively. CBS drew a 3.8 for the same debate so overall the debate did a 15.5). It beat the National League playoff game with the New York Mets vs. San Francisco Giants which pulled a 4.8 rating. Head-to-head since baseball went longer and did its stronger numbers after Smackdown ended, it was 5.0 to 4.4 (which includes the game rating taken down slightly by including the pre-game show). With Adults 18-49, Smackdown beat Baseball 3.3 to 2.6. Millionaire cleans up among older viewers and Friends among adults. Baseball also is very strong among older viewers. Gilmore Girls and Charmed did well with women adults although Smackdown among teenage girls came close to Charmed and beat Friends. Some scary numbers, if you're a baseball fan and not a wrestling fan are that Among Men 18-34, Smackdown did a 5.1 while baseball did a 2.7. Baseball basically reversed those numbers and then some among men over 35. Among teenagers, Smackdown did a 6.7 to Baseball's 1.4 (5.1 to 0.6 among women teenagers) and Among under 11's, Wrestling beat Baseball by a 3.3 to 0.7 ratings margin. The WWF was strongest among the major TV markets in New York, Chicago, Houston and the King's home town of Memphis (where Smackdown won the night with a 12.1 rating and a 15.8 final half hour as compared to a 16.5 for the combined rating of the VP Debates on all three major networks combined).

The only details we have on the 10/4 Thunder show was that it drew a 1.9 rating, which can partially be explained because it started late due to a NASCAR race.

The Lucha Libre on Galavision didn't air on 10/3 nor 10/10 because the shows that would have been taped in Mexico for those dates weren't taped due to the Olympics.


Results of the daily poll on the eyada.com web site. New questions will be up every day at approximately 3 p.m. Eastern time with the results being announced at the start of the Wrestling Observer Live internet audio show the following day as well as each week here.

What did you think of Monday night's (10/2) wrestling? a) Raw was better 61.4%; b) Nitro was better 15.5%; c) Didn't watch Raw 2.5%; d) Didn't watch Nitro 12.6%; e) Didn't watch Raw or Nitro 7.9%

Of this group, who was the most interesting guest on Wrestling Observer Live? a) Badnews Allen 34.8%; b) Steven Regal 18.7%; c) Bret Hart 21.9%; d) Kurt Angle 18.1%; e) Steve Keirn 6.4%

Of this group, who was the most interesting guest on Wrestling Observer Live? a) Jim Cornette 45.1%; b) Jeff Marek 11.8%; c) Edge 8.6%; d) Julian Shabazz 8.3%; e) Ric Flair 26.2%

Of this group, who was the most interesting guest on Wrestling Observer Live? a) Ted DiBiase 21.4%; b) Les Thatcher 8.9%; c) Justin Credible 2.8%; d) Raven 50.2%; e) Jim Ross 16.7%

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10/3 Long Beach, CA (WCW Thunder/World Wide tapings - 3,764/1,254 paid): Scott Steiner b Jung Dragons, Kwee Wee b Christopher Daniels, Robbie Rage b Jason Styles, Norman Smiley b Kevin Northcutt, Konnan & Rey Misterio Jr. & Juventud Guerrera b 3 Count, Jim Duggan b Sgt. Awall, Cruiserweight title: Mike Sanders b Lance Storm, Tag titles: Mark Jindrak & Sean O'Haire b Mike Awesome & Crowbar, Shane Douglas b Sting

10/6 Green Bay, WI (ECW - 1,000): Chris Hamrick b Michael Shane, Danny Doring & Roadkill b Simon Diamond & Chris Chetti, Nova b Prodigy, ECW tag titles: FBI b Christian York & Joey Matthews, Steve Corino b Bilvis Wesley, Sandman & Kid Kash b E.Z. Money & Julio Dinero, Bill Alfonso b local DJ, Jerry Lynn b C.W. Anderson, TV title: Rhino b Yoshihiro Tajiri, Street fight: New Jack & Balls Mahoney & Chilly Willy b Tony DeVito & Angel & Red Dog

10/6 Mexico City Arena Mexico (EMLL TV taping): Fire & Pierrothtito b Bracito de Oro & Cicloncito Ramirez, Antifaz del Norte & Felino & Tigre Blanco b Nozawa & Karloff Lagarde Jr. & Mr. Mexico, Violencia & Gran Markus Jr. & Fuerza Guerrera b Olimpico & Lizmark Jr. & Mr. Niebla, Dr. Wagner Jr. & Blue Panther & Black Warrior b Rayo de Jalisco Jr. & Tarzan Boy & Atlantis, Leyenda de Plata Trophy: Negro Casas b El Hijo del Santo to win trophy

10/6 Tijuana, BC (AAA): Tiger Mask (not Japanese wrestler) & Super Light b Sangre Guerrera & Shamu, Benny Carranza & Multicolor b Indio Toro & Angel de Tijuana, Venum Black & Arandu & Akuma b Super Crazy (ECW) & Escorpion Negro & King Azteca, Head Hunters & Electro Shock b AAA Mascara Sagrada & El Alebrije & La Parka Jr., Mexican national lightheavyweight title: Hector Garza b Perro Aguayo Jr.-COR, Abismo Negro b Cibernetico-DQ

10/7 Brisbane, Australia (WCW Nitro tapings - 9,000): Billy Kidman b Kwee Wee, Elix Skipper b Rey Misterio Jr., Tag titles: Mark Jindrak & Sean O'Haire b Disqo & Alex Wright, Tygress b Torrie Wilson, Cat & Booker T b Mike Sanders & Kevin Nash, Bill Goldberg b Big Vito, Mike Awesome b David Flair, U.S. Canadian title: Lance Storm b Konnan, Sting b Scott Steiner

10/7 San Jose, CA (WWF - 16,985 sellout): European title: Al Snow b William Regal-DQ, Lo Down b Dean Malenko & Crash, Hardcore title: Steve Blackman b Raven, Goodfather & Bull Buchanan b Acolytes, Billy Gunn b Val Venis, Edge & Christian & Jackie b Hardys & Lita, Sho Funaki b Essa Rios, Tables match: Dudleys b Test & Albert, Chris Jericho b X-Pac, HHH & Rikishi b Kane & Kurt Angle

10/7 Tokyo Differ Ariake (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 1,800 sellout): Vader b Takeshi Morishima, Richard Slinger & Too Cold Scorpio b Naomichi Marufuji & Kenta Kobayashi, Satoru Asako & Tamon Honda & Haruka Eigen b Makoto Hashi & Mitsuo Momota & Rusher Kimura, Takao Omori b Kentaro Shiga, Yoshihiro Takayama b Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Kenta Kobashi & Takeshi Rikioh b Jun Akiyama & Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Daisuke Ikeda & Yoshinari Ogawa & Mitsuharu Misawa b Masao Inoue & Jun Izumida & Akira Taue

10/7 Milwaukee (ECW TNN tapings - 1,500/papered): Bilvis Wesley b Michael Shane, Christian York & Joey Matthews b Chris Chetti & Simon Diamond, Rhino b Prodigy, Tag titles: FBI b Danny Doring & Roadkill, Balls Mahoney NC Yoshihiro Tajiri, Sandman & Kid Kash b Chris Hamrick & Julio Dinero, Three-way for ECW title: Jerry Lynn won over Steve Corino and C.W. Anderson, New Jack b Justin Credible, Rob Van Dam b E.Z. Money

10/7 Coventry, England (Universal Championship Wrestling - 2,000): Kerry Cabrero b Stevie Knight, Danny Royal b Michael Kovac, L.X. Blade & Phil Barker b Joey Knight & Robin Knightwing, Paul Sloane & Paul Tyrell b Mike Roberts & Doug Williams, Christopher Daniels b Shinjiro Otani, Jodie Fleisch b Jonny Storm, Royal d Cabrero, Williams won three-way over Scotty Rock and Darren Walsh, Blade & Barker b Sloan & Tyrell to win tag tourney, Fleisch b Daniels to win singles tourney

10/8 San Diego (WWF - 10,636): Bull Buchanan & Goodfather b Too Cool, Mideon b Brooklyn Brawler, Jerry Lawler b Raven, European title: Al Snow b Perry Saturn, Street fight: Rikishi & HHH b Kurt Angle & Kane, Dupps b Rodney & Pete Gas Chris Benoit b Billy Gunn, Tables match: Dudleys b Test & Albert

10/8 Fresno, CA (WWF - 9,665): K.Krush b Joey Abs, Acolytes b Lo Down, Edge & Christian & Jackie b Hardys & Lita, Crash b Just Joe, Lt hwt title: Dean Malenko b Essa Rios, Hardcore title: Steve Blackman b Sho Funaki, Chris Jericho b X-Pac

10/8 Yokohama Bunka Gym (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 5,200 sellout): Satoru Asako b Makoto Hashi, Masao Inoue & Yoshinobu Kanemaru b Kenta Kobayashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota & Takeshi Morishima b Haruka Eigen & Tamon Honda & Jun Izumida, Daisuke Ikeda b Kentaro Shiga, Akira Taue b Takeshi Rikioh, Jun Akiyama & Yoshihiro Takayama b Kenta Kobashi & Takao Omori, Vader & Too Cold Scorpio & Richard Slinger b Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa & Naomichi Marufuji

10/8 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (All Japan - 2,100 sellout): Taiyo Kea won 15 man Royal Rumble

10/8 Tokyo Differ Ariake (Michinoku Pro - 1,100): Hanzo Nakajima b Kazuya Yuasu, Etsuko Mita & Tsubo Genjin b Mima Shimoda & Stalker Ichikawa, Big Japan jr. title: Mens Teioh b Shiryu II, Taru & Sumo Dandy Fuji & Cima b Genki Horiguchi & Dragon Kid & Gran Hamada, Tiger Mask b Suwa, NWA middleweight title: Great Sasuke b Naomichi Marufuji

10/9 Tokyo Yoyogi Gym II (RINGS King of Kings tournament - 4,600 sellout): Roberto Traven b Mikhail Borissov, Dave Menne b Wataru Sakata, Valentijn Overeem b Suren Balachinsky, Renato Babalu b Bistadze Tariel, Randy Couture b Jeremy Horn, Ryushi Yanagisawa b Borislav Jeliazkov, Antonio Nogueira b Labazanov Arhmed, Kiyoshi Tamura b Grom Zaza, Menne b Traven, Overeem b Babalu, Couture b Yanagisawa, Nogueira b Tamura

10/9 Anaheim, CA Arrowhead Pond (WWF Raw is War - 12,040 sellout): K.Krush b Fallen Angel (Christopher Daniels), Too Cool b Essa Rios & Sho Funaki, Albert b Crash, Dudleys b Gangrel & Just Joe, Womens title: Lita b Jacqueline, Steve Blackman b Raven, Chris Benoit & X-Pac b HHH & Chris Jericho, Tag titles: Hardys b Lo Down, European title: Al Snow b Test, Val Venis & Goodfather b Eddy Guerrero & Chyna, Rock & Rikishi b Kurt Angle & Kane

10/9 Sydney, Australia (WCW Thunder - 10,000 sellout): Sgt. Awall b Johnny the Bull, Konnan & General Rection b Lance Storm & Shane Douglas, Tag titles: Corporal Cajun & Lt. Loco b Mark Jindrak & Sean O'Haire to win titles, Tag titles: Jindrak & O'Haire b Cajun & Loco to win titles, Kronik b Booker T-DQ, Elix Skipper b Billy Kidman, Bill Goldberg b Chuck Palumbo, Sting b Mike Sanders, Mike Awesome & Crowbar b Ron & Don Harris, Scott Steiner b Rey Misterio Jr., Cat b Kevin Nash-DQ

10/9 Fukuoka Marine Mecce (K-1 - 10,800 sellout): Mike Bernardo b Jurgen Cruto, Stefan Leko b Andrew Tomson, Hiromi Amada b Thomas Kuczarchewski, Mirko Crocop (Filipovic) b Graube Feitoza, Shingo Koyasu b Hiroki Kurosawa, Bernardo b Tomson, Crocop b Amada, Michael McDonald b Nicholas Pettas, Bernardo b Crocop

10/9 Maebashi (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 1,800 sellout): Tsuyoshi Kikuchi b Kenta Kobayashi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Masao Inoue b Kentaro Shiga & Makoto Hashi, Jun Izumida & Tamon Honda & Haruka Eigen b Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota & Naomichi Marufuji, Takao Omori b Takeshi Morishima, Kenta Kobashi b Too Cold Scorpio, Vader & Richard Slinger b Akira Taue & Takeshi Rikioh, Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa & Daisuke Ikeda b Satoru Asako & Yoshihiro Takayama & Jun Akiyama

10/10 Sydney, Australia (WCW - 9,000): Kwee Wee b Elix Skipper, Shane Douglas & Torrie Wilson b Konnan & Tygress, Canadian U.S. title: General Rection b Lance Storm-DQ, Cat b Mike Sanders, Scott Steiner won Battle Royal, Tag titles: Mark Jindrak & Sean O'Haire b Rey Misterio Jr. & Billy Kidman, Sting b Jeff Jarrett, Bill Goldberg b Kronik, WCW title: Booker T b Steiner


Special thanks to: Wilson Rivera II, Joe Silva, Garth Jackson, Jonathan Lerner, Alex Marvez, Bryan Alvarez, Jeff Marek, Adrian Pickworth, Leigh Flanigan, Alan Smolek, Brooks Pryor, Kip Reed, Bob Barnett, Robert Bihari, Chuck Langerman, Jose Fernandez, Matt Creamer, Adrian Tynan, Rob Moore, Julian Licht, Paul Bradbrook, Trent Walters, Rod Dixon, Justin McKinlay, Patrick Elhage, Monty Schneider, James Bartholomeusz, David Republic, Larry Goodman, Eric Loy, Greg Moser, Peter Gregory, Mohammed Chatra, Enrico Mezzatesta, Guy Rusiski, Vincent Haworth, Megumi Nakata, Anthony Eastman, Alan Smolek, Craig Allen, Francis Delauretis, Conrad Hyler, David Romero, Blake Wolfson, Dan Lennard, Brent Reed, Dan Parris, Jeremy Medeiros, C.W. Mace, Andrew Milgate, Phil Jones, James Stanios, David Lagana, Dafydd Denatale, BARB, Ryan McFarland, Tadashi Morishita

MEXICO: Negro Casas beat El Hijo del Santo on 10/6 at Arena Mexico to win the Leyenda de Plata (Legend of the Silver Mask) trophy named after El Santo. Santo was the heel, since Arena Mexico fans love Casas, and also because Santo brought rudo Blue Panther out as his second while Casas brought out tecnico Tarzan Boy as his. However, Tarzan Boy, who the fans at Arena Mexico hate with a passion (they see him as a pretty boy getting a push on looks and these are older, smarter, hardcore fans that resent guys making it without earning it) had just earned on Atlantis in the previous match. Top rudos Shocker and Scorpio Jr. were sitting in the front row for the final two matches on the show encouraging Tarzan to go rudo and join with them. Tarzan then turned on Casas, but Casas still pinned Santo with La magistral to win the trophy. Scorpio, Shocker and Tarzan Boy all attacked Casas after the match, and Santo made the save, but was also overpowered by the odds, until finally Panther saved Casas leaving Panther, Casas and Santo together in the tecnico role. Said to be an okay match, but nowhere near the level of some of their matches in the past.

ALL JAPAN: At the unique 10/8 Korakuen Hall show, Masahito Kakihara returned in a surprise, being the first wrestler who left for NOAH to jump back. Kakihara left after the first two shows with Misawa's group in early August and was believed to be headed to either RINGS or Pancrase, but hadn't been heard from again until his music played at the show. The show was unique because it was a one match show, the Royal Rumble match won by Taiyo Kea which went 38:51, but because it was the day before the Dome show, they drew a sellout 2,100 fans. Besides the match, they had a lengthy in-ring interview with Tenryu talking about his career. They announced that Shigeo Okumura and Nobutaka Araya, two independent wrestlers, were now officially part of the New Japan roster. Gran Naniwa also worked the Rumble match as an independent and Motoko Baba presented Kawada with a ring gown to wear at the show the next day. New Japan also had the building booked, and they brought out all the wrestlers booked on the Dome show for a contract signing. It was at this contract signing where they announced Kea's injury and that his match at the Dome was canceled.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: Vader arrived in Japan on 10/6 with a press conference to hype his debut with the promotion the next day. Vader said "no comment" as it regarded his contractual situation, but said that when he was injured by Mitsuharu Misawa (an angle to cover for the fact he had to go home because the injury from months earlier had done too much damage to continue on the tour), All Japan broke the contract, but didn't specify as to how. All Japan claimed that Vader never once complained about his contract not being honored (we've also heard reports that contradict that) and will file suit over what they believe to be a breach

Misawa also responded to Genichiro Tenryu's request that the NOAH wrestlers work the All Japan 1/28 Tokyo Dome show because it's an anniversary show for Giant Baba, who broke almost all of them in and was their boss for most of the NOAH wrestlers' entire career, which was pretty much a grandstand media play to make the guys look bad when they turned it down. Misawa said the NOAH wrestlers wouldn't do the show because it was well known that Baba didn't like the wrestlers who left his promotion and never forgave Tenryu and Onita while he was alive so that they shouldn't be working a show honoring Baba in the first place

Vader had his first match back since the injury in the opener of the 10/7 Differ Ariake show pinning Takeshi Morishima in 2:43, and the fans gave him a standing ovation. Vader challenged Misawa after the match

The company ran its biggest show to date on 10/8 at the Yokohama Bunka Gym before a sellout announced at 5,200 with a main event of Slinger & Scorpio & Vader beating Misawa & Ogawa & Naomichi Marufuji (it was Marufuji's second match of the day, as earlier in the day he headlined the Michinoku Pro show at Differ Ariake before 1,100 fans losing to Great Sasuke in an NWA middleweight title match). The real main event was the semifinal, where Kenta Kobashi & Takao Omori tagged up in a grudge match with Yoshihiro Takayama & Jun Akiyama. On the 10/7 Differ Ariake show, Akiyama, who had been kept super strong since the debut of the office, did a surprising job in a tag match teaming with Yoshinobu Kanemaru against Kobashi & Takeshi Rikioh when Kobashi pinned Akiyama clean after a lariat, after also laying Kanemaru out with a lariat, a result of which should have indicated something big was going to happen since Kobashi left two men laying. Omori, who had just started teaming with Kobashi, turned on him, leading to Takayama scoring a clean pin on Kobashi in 23:29 with a german suplex, and Omori joined up with Takayama and Akiyama. Akira Taue, who has been out of the picture of late, attacked Omori in the dressing room so they may link those two together. This was done to set up Kobashi vs. Omori as a second main event on the 10/11 show at Nagoya Aiichi Ken Gym along with Akiyama & Takayama vs. Misawa & Ogawa.

NEW JAPAN: When Katsuhiko Nagata was presented with his silver medal, he did that salute gesture that Yuji does usually before he sets up the Nagata lock. I guess that would be equivalent to Rulon Gardner holding up four fingers on the medal stand or doing that Hardy Boys hand deal. One newspaper front page I saw for 9/28 had a huge photo of Katsuhiko on the cover page doing the salute, an inset of Yuji doing it to show what it meant, and much smaller photos of his two matches the previous day

Both Fujinami and Seiji Sakaguchi were pushing the idea on 10/10 that the Kawada-Sasaki match should be Match of the Year. Riki Choshu was pushing that there has to be a rematch

Shinjiro Otani is in England until 11/7, at which point he'll return to Calgary for his get big diet under Joe Daigo and return to this company in the heavyweight division probably for the 1/4 Dome show

9/16 TV show was kind of a blah except the opener with the Chono-Fuchi match from the All Japan 9/2 Budokan Hall show. It was what you'd think. A lot of heat, although more for just Chono and Team 2000 being in the All Japan ring than for the match itself. They didn't need to do much besides basics and that's largely all they did. At least everything they did looked solid. After the match, Tatsutoshi Goto started shoving Taiyo Kea to build up the future and Kawada and Sasaki did interviews to build up their match. They showed the last minute of Goto pinned Kenzo Suzuki. Didn't look like much as these are the two worst wrestlers in the company. El Samurai & Shinya Makabe & Kendo Ka Shin beat Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka. Typically good junior heavy match. It was Ka Shin's first TV since the Ryan Gracie match and boy was he dead. He looked real good but the crowd died for him as he really lost a ton of face with the high profile destruction. Match itself overall had disappointing heat but the wrestling was usual junior heavy level, ending with Makabe pinned Tanaka after a rolling german suplex. Manabu Nakanishi racked Tadao Yasuda in a singles match. Wrestling was a little sloppy but the crowd for some reason gets into Yasuda as a cult thing and because he is a big guy and gets into Nakanishi because he's a strong guy they think is legit tough, which he is. Fair overall. Main was Don Frye & Chono & Super J over Sasaki & Nagata & Brian Johnston. Watchable. Nagata worked most of the way and he's good, but he was carrying the match for everyone. Finish was a strong heel win, as Frye had the heel hook on Nagata, J had a front guillotine on Sasaki and Chono had the STF on Johnston and Nagata submitted. 9/23 TV was really good. First they aired clips of the IWGP jr. tag title match with Kanemoto & Tanaka retaining against Liger & Makabe. Only 3:00 of a 21:46 match aired, and judging from what aired and the crowd heat, it looked to be a great match and there was super heat. Liger did a top rope german superplex on Kanemoto followed by a Liger bomb for a near fall. Makabe speared Kanemoto out of his boots and hit a german. Makabe also threw a killer clothesline and a rolling german suplex on Kanemoto. Both guys sold for Makabe to make him a jr. heavy powerhouse similar to how they got over Takaiwa when he was first given his push. Tanaka ended up making Makabe submit with a flying armbar after they spent most of the match making him look good. It was great on many levels, both action, heat and booking, but why did they have to edit a great match so much? Johnston & Yutaka Yoshie & Shiro Koshinaka beat Hiro Saito & Goto & Michiyoshi Ohara when Yoshie pinned Ohara after a german suplex. Johnston was in much of the way and is starting to show some improvement. Match was okay, but it was a shame they aired most of this match and so little of the previous bout. Nakanishi beat Takashi Iizuka after two lariats in a ***1/2 match. Iizuka did a lot of submissions early with rope breaks. Highlights were Nakanishi getting Iizuka in the rack, but Iizuka grabbing a choke from that position for a rope break. The other was Nakanishi going for a spear, Iizuka ducking underneath the tackle and getting behind him and choking him. Chono & Kojima & Frye over Nagata & Sasaki & Liger was another great match, maybe ***3/4, so much better than it sounds on paper because of the face team carrying things so well. All kinds of near falls and near submissions and saves. Frye got the heel hook on Liger for a long time with them teasing the submission before Sasaki saved. What makes this stuff work is these submissions work so often against the top guys (see previous weeks finish) so the crowd buys Liger in a heel hook as a finish. Nagata went wild with a hot tag and got the Nagata lock on Chono but Frye saved. Sasaki got the guillotine on Chono but Kojima saved with a low blow. Chono used the Yakuza kick on Sasaki, who no-sold it and hit Frye with a lariat and powerslammed Kojima. Frye then sucker punched Sasaki and Chono pinned him, getting over Frye's punch. The anyone can do a job at any time booking style makes for unpredictable clean finishes, but I think leading into a big "match of the century" like they were, they should protect their world champion to make him go into the match seeming like a world beater and "the best wrestler in the world" which if the champ doesn't have that aura, the belt is meaningless anyway, and for that reason I can't see Sasaki being the one to do the honors. Main event was an excellent IWGP jr. title match where Takaiwa retained beating Ka Shin. Problem is that Ka Shin is dead so they had no heat early and were having a tough time following the previous strong match. Ka Shin wrestled one of his best matches ever maneuvering around like he was Tanaka, I guess recognizing he's working at a handicap right now. It built into a great match and would have been **** under normal circumstances but the crowd took it down a notch by not buying Ka Shin as a threat most of the way. By the time the match was over, he had performed so well they sort of grudgingly bought him as a worker but they don't buy him at all as a tough guy, which is a necessity for a guy doing a shooter submission gimmick. Takaiwa finally won with a cool finish, getting a near fall with a triple bomb and after Ka Shin kicked out, maneuvering quickly into the armbar for the submission

9/30 TV drew a 3.4 rating

HERE AND THERE: The Urban Wrestling Federation held its first TV tapings on 9/30 at a Hollywood TV studio with an audience that was more like Hollywood extras than wrestling fans. They decided against using any name talent and the biggest pushes went to a guy named Surge, as a black Bill Goldberg, Solo and a Dusty Rhodes protege named Jorge Estrada. Damian and Halloween, who were the biggest names involved, didn't work at the tapings as they wanted people with more of a hip hop look, although they may be used in the future

With the new TV season having just started, both the Urban Wrestling group and David McLane's Women of Wrestling were scheduled to start this weekend in syndication. The Urban league didn't have the tapes out so missed the debut, at least in some markets. WOW did debut. The only report we got is that the wrestling matches were better than Russo-booked women matches (I'm not sure that is high praise). Lee Marshall and McLane did the announcing for the show

A correction on the report last week on the "Nikki" show. While Nash and Moolah have done guest shots for the WB show that debuted on 10/8, Hogan did not. Hogan was hanging around on the set, but he was actually there to film an episode of "Suddenly Susan," before it was canceled, and both are filmed in the same studio

Barry Blaustein, who made his directorial debut in "Beyond the Mat," gets his second shot in a comedy called "The Ringer," about two people who try to win medals in the Special Olympics by pretending to be handicapped. The Farrelly Brothers, who did "There's Something About Mary" will serve as producers

Regarding the story about George Grant two weeks ago, with him claiming to be the original Gorgeous George, and us noting that numerous media outlets just a few years ago reported on the death of the famous Gorgeous George, even though the famous Gorgeous George had died in 1963. The Gorgeous George death reported on was the death of a wrestler named George Arena, who was a different person who went through his post-wrestling life claiming to have been the original star of network television. When Grant passes away, I'll bet those same media outlets that reported on the death of Gorgeous George a few years back, will run the same story

Russ Francis, who wrestled during the 70s and made a comeback in 1987, but was far better known as one of the best tight ends in the NFL during his active career, won the Republican nomination for Hawaii's Second U.S. Congressional District. Francis squares off against two-term Democratic incumbent Patsy Mink in the 11/7 election. I have a feeling the Hawaiian media doesn't refer to him as a former pro wrestler. Francis' father was something of a major star in pro wrestling, particularly in Hawaii and Oregon, and his older brother wrestled as well. In fact, Russ Francis' wrestling was a big deal because he was a college football All-American prospect at the University of Oregon, who after a problem with the coaching staff, quit school before his senior year. In those days, you couldn't be eligible for the NFL draft until your college class graduated, so even though he would have been a first round draft choice (which he was the next year by the New England Patriots), he couldn't play any football anywhere and spent the year working as a pro wrestler in the Oregon circuit. His potential at the time was so strong that there were higher-ups that considered him to be a future NWA world champion because he was an incredibly gifted athlete at virtually everything he tried and was 6-foot-7, but because he could earn so much more in football those days, he only wrestled on occasion during the off-season during his first few years in the NFL, and later stopped altogether except for some high profile AWA matches in 1987 in San Francisco since he was a member of the 49ers at that point

David Arquette officially donated all his WCW earnings three-ways to benefit the families of the late Brian Pillman and Brian Hildebrand as well as to Darren Drozdov. Kevin Nash up to this point never made the $20,000 donation to the Pillman fund he pledged at the Pillman show this year

In what was reported as the biggest and best indie show in the U.K. in several years, featuring three **** matches, Universal Championship Wrestling drew approximately 2,000 fans to the Coventry Sky Dome Arena on 10/7 paced by Christopher Daniels, Shinjiro Otani and Jodie Fleisch. The card was built around a tag team tournament (won by Total Destruction, Phil Barker & L.X. Blade) and a singles tournament featuring the aforementioned three stars of the Japanese jr. heavyweight division. Daniels beat Otani in a first round match while Fleisch beat Jonny Storm, leading to the two of them meeting in the main event with Fleisch, the local, going over, all of which were said to be **** matches and were well received by an audience of mainly kids. They were said to be the three best matches in England all year and reported as off the charts awesome. Tag team tourney was said to have started off good but finished weak. Nice stage and good pyro as well. Rival All-Star Wrestling has Yokozuna, Skinner (Steve Keirn), Marty Jannetty and Doink the Clown (Dusty Wolfe) on tour.

ECW: Everyone got their paychecks this weekend so they remain two pay periods behind

It appears the November to Remember PPV on 11/3 in Chicago will be headlined by the three-way with Lynn vs. Credible vs. Corino

Super Crazy becomes officially legal to return on 10/11

Psicosis wasn't in again this week so he may already be done

There is a lot of heat because Masato Tanaka apparently is going to take an XPW booking through Sabu

10/7 was the TV taping for this coming week in Milwaukee. Rhino beat Prodigy to keep the TV title. FBI beat Doring & Roadkill in what was said to be their best match against each other thus far. They did the TNN opening, bringing out Lynn. Credible & Francine came out and Credible blamed the loss of the title on Francine screwing up. Corino came out as well. Credible and Corino went at it before Rhino got involved as well. Seems as though they are either building up a three-way or a four-way for the title at the next PPV. Balls Mahoney vs. Tajiri never got going before FBI attacked Tajiri and they fought to the back. The Baldies attacked Mahoney and power bombed him through a flaming table. They used way too much lighter fluid, but Mahoney managed to get off the fire really fast or he could have been in real trouble. Kash vs. Chris Hamrick in a single turned into a tag with Sandman helping Kash and Julio Dinero helping Hamrick, which of course Kash & Sandman went over in. Lynn won a three-way over Corino and C.W. Anderson to keep the title in what was said to have been real good except there was a screw up as the bell rang after Lynn pinned Corino and Lynn was announced as the winner, making it anti-climactic when Lynn and Anderson had to wrestle because everyone already knew Lynn was winning. New Jack pinned Credible surprisingly cleanly with Credible and Francine again teasing a break-up. This may indicate Credible getting the title at the PPV and thus New Jack with a TV win would be in line for a natural title match. Van Dam beat Money in a match said to be not very good although Van Dam did his big moves. A lot of fans left during the match but the two worked good spots together in between Van Dam doing maybe too much posing

Red Dog (Rodney Begnaud) joined Angel & DeVito in the Baldies over the weekend

Sonny Onoo was at the Anarchy Rulz PPV trying to work as a company liaison with Japan. ECW's PPV shows used to run live in Japan but the deal fell apart due to a combination of limited interest in Japan and major problems doing business

Bill Alfonso's hand was still swollen to close to twice normal size as of the weekend, stemming from taking the Van Terminator on the PPV

Lou E. Dangerously was put together at TV with Chris Chetti

10/6 TNN show was taped at the Anarchy Rulz PPV. The show consisted of the Nova vs. Bilvis Wesley dark match from the show, the Kash vs. Money match and the Cyrus vs. Gertner match. The rest was a series of interviews. Credible & Francine attacked Lynn during his interview after winning the title. The only other notable thing is that every other word in most of the interviews was bleeped out. They overdo the swearing to the point it has zero impact as opposed to having any shock value. Nova beating Wesley was decent. A little rough, but Nova did a lot of cool moves and they had a lot of near falls and the crowd was into it. It's interesting to see them put PPV matches on TV for free the next week. It's probably not a bad idea, since they didn't air the main events. If they were to air the main events free on a consistent basis it would probably hurt the buy rate, but showing a prelim on a PPV match every now and then shouldn't hurt. Really it's just that they didn't do any tapings last week and were down on material because there is a financial crunch.

WCW: Nitro was taped on 10/7 in Brisbane, Australia. Aside from showing some Australian sites, it didn't seem much different from a normal Nitro except a bigger crowd and more heat. An overall decent show. Jarrett showed up dressed as Sting circa 1992. Skipper beat Misterio Jr. with his finisher. Some really good moves and some rough spots. Misterio Jr. did a great springboard somersault plancha. Torrie Wilson attacked Tygress right before the finish. Sanders came out with the NBT. Cat came out with the MIA's and cleaned house arguing over who was commissioner. Jindrak & O'Haire kept the tag titles over Wright & Disqo. Very good match. Wright looked tremendous. At one point, Jindrak & O'Haire did a double dropkick and with Mark Madden doing a million Tommy Rich impressions (why, I have no idea), Schiavone got into being retro by saying it was reminiscent of the Rock & Roll Express, and Stevie Ray then said, "Who?" as if he'd never heard of them. After a ref bump, Disqo hit the stunner on Jindrak and pinned him. Sanders then came out and said it should have been a DQ. Nothing like ruining the best match Jindrak & O'Haire have ever had by turning it into the clown show that has killed the promotion. Stasiak, Palumbo and Johnny the Bull all attacked Wright & Disqo. Sanders then ordered the match re-started and Jindrak & O'Haire each pinned one of them to retain. Madden, who did the announcing on the tour with Schiavone and Stevie Ray, interviewed Keibler. Keibler was wearing a pillow-like thing in her dress to give the appearance that she was starting to show, which is actually more attention to detail than ECW ever did with all those months of Beulah being pregnant, although I guess it made sense in the end since it was revealed she made it all up. Keibler said it was nobody's business who the father was and was about to walk off because Madden was browbeating her. David Flair came out and I think she was supposed to basically point out it wasn't Bagwell as the father, although that never really came across. One thing was hilarious. David wanted Stacey to take a blood test until Madden told him that they already know she's the mother. He then wanted Madden to take a blood test and Madden said for him to give Keibler a blood test. Crowbar came out in his terribly goofy threads, and David attacked him, until Awesome made the save. Tygress beat Wilson in a clothes ripping match. This was really bad, although they have gotten better. They've gone from looking like kids in their front yard to looking like inexperienced backyard wrestlers. If they were doing this in Maryland, they'd all be arrested. Wilson was left in her bra and panties, but unlike in WWF, where the cameras show it, these cameras were everywhere but until Douglas covered her up and took her off. Douglas tried to franchise Tygress' ass but Konnan saved. Jarrett came out as Sting and wanted to have kids pay $15 for autographs. Schiavone was saying how the real Sting signs autographs for free. Yeah right. The only guy left who does autographs at signings for free is Bruno Sammartino. The real Sting came from the ceiling and they had a brawl, complete with Jarrett doing a Sting no-sell spot from a suplex and a Stinger splash ala the old Sting-Flair matches. Sting got Jarrett in the scorpion and left him laying. Cat & Booker beat Sanders & Nash. It was funny as they were trying to get Sam Greco, the K-1 star who they were grooming as the local athlete for a match later in the tour, over as a big local celeb. Anyway, they kept putting him on camera and the second or third time, with Schiavone calling him a multi-time world champion kickboxer and former K-1 star, and Stevie Ray said he'd never heard of the guy, basically killing the idea he could be anyone that important. Fans reacted to Nash like he was a big star. Didn't react to anyone else like that. Cat pinned Sanders with the feliner. As Cat squared off with Greco and Schiavone acted like these were two karate guys squaring off and Steiner attacked Booker with a pipe. Goldberg squashed Vito in 37 seconds. Johnny attacked Vito. Goldberg came back and laid out Johnny with a spear and jackhammer as well. Awesome beat Flair in a hardcore match. This was much better than most David matches. I wouldn't call it good, but it wasn't bad. David did a poor man's version of the slam off the top and flip into the turnbuckles. Awesome did a really good job here and pinned him. He was about to give him the Awesome bomb over the top through a table when Ric Flair came out and asked him not to, so he didn't. That was so strange. Storm pinned Konnan to keep the title when Douglas hit Konnan with a chain and two moves later, Storm used the half crab. Main event saw Sting beat Steiner. Jarrett came out to ref and played heel the whole time. The whole heel ref thing is so overdone and boring. How come the heel ref just doesn't count the face out in the beginning? At one point Billy Silverman came out but Steiner killed him dead. Steiner took the whole match so you knew he was doing the job at the end. Sting ended up hitting Jarrett but Steiner hit Sting with a pipe and threw him into the ring steps. Cat and Booker came out, with Booker wearing a ref shirt. Booker threw a thrust kick at Steiner, who fell into a scorpion death drop by Sting for the pin as the show ended

Thunder on 10/9 in Sydney drew what is believed to be one of the largest crowds for wrestling ever in Australia (largest since a 1986 WWF show). Fans seemed to like the shows but reports from the wrestlers were that they felt the shows were killed midway through and was very bad. Awall beat Johnny in a dark match. Schiavone brought out Flair who got a big pop and did his basic shtick with no issues to discuss. Rection & Konnan beat Douglas & Storm when Kidman interfered allowing Rection to pin Douglas after a moonsault. Cat brought out Sam Greco, billed as the newest WCW superstar. Greco seemed nervous and was said to have shown little charisma. NTB's came out. Stasiak ended up taking the bump for Greco's kick. Cajun & Loco won the tag titles from O'Haire & Jindrak. Heard this match was terrible, with one blown spot after another and fans chanting boring. Sanders then ordered a tag title rematch, with O'Haire pinning Cajun to regain the belts. Awall choke slammed both guys after. Kronik beat Booker via DQ in a handicap match. Goldberg came out and speared both guys. Skipper pinned Kidman in a good match. Said that Duggan was stealing too much of the heat from the guys, and fans cheered Duggan until the end when he hit Kidman with a 2x4. Awesome did the Lava Lamp Lounge with Kwee Wee and Paisley. He was hitting on Paisley. Johnny the Bull jumped Kwee Wee. Harris Twins then jumped Awesome and left he and Kwee Wee laying. Goldberg squashed Palumbo with spear and jackhammer, then did the same to Stasiak. It appeared Goldberg separated his shoulder throwing a punch in this match and he may not be able to wrestle for the rest of the tour. Goldberg's had the bad shoulder but continues to work on it rather than let it heal, which is why is continues to go out on him. Sanders came out followed by Jarrett again dressed up as the old Sting. Jarrett laid on his back ala the Hogan match and asks Sanders to pin him so he can have "his best match in years" as Sting. Sting came out and ran off Jarrett. Sanders started pounding on Sting with a bat but Sting came back to win with the scorpion death drop. Crowd liked it. Awesome & Crowbar beat Harris Twins. Better match than it sounded on paper. Steiner beat Misterio Jr. in a elongated squash match. Cat beat Nash via DQ when Sanders hit Cat with a chair. Nash got a total face reaction from the crowd and since he was playing cool heel, it isn't as if that wasn't what he was looking for. Match was short and bad. Nash went to power bomb Cat on a chair when Booker hit the ring. Sting, Steiner, Jarrett, Kronik and Goldberg all ended up involved with Goldberg cleaning house

Christopher Daniels' contract with WCW ended on 10/1 at the end of his 90-day cycle, of which he was virtually never used. He was then called up to work the World Wide show on 10/3 in Long Beach. He then worked the WWF Raw tapings six days later in Anaheim after flying back and forth from England in between

The general belief is that Sanders' pin on Storm at Thunder was Russo's going away present for him since he was one of the wrestlers closest to him and Russo figuring his days were numbered

Rob Van Dam was backstage at Thunder on 10/3. He lives near Long Beach where the show was held

The "Road Rage" show that Eric Bischoff is producing for UPN will start taping in December in Las Vegas and will likely start on Friday nights in late January

Vampiro's wife Kitsu gave birth to a baby girl named Dasha on 10/4, so he should be returning imminently

Melinda O'Hearn (Midajah) filed a $2 million lawsuit against the Los Angeles Weekly for using her photo in an ad for a phone sex line. The newspaper is blaming it on the advertiser, but is claiming not to know who the advertiser was. For some reason that reminded me of a Bill Wattism from years back. You know that Watts always liked to make people believe even the most far fetched angle was legitimate and would come up with arguments for them. Anyway, some fan must have written a letter about a masked wrestler whose real identity was unknown (Mr. Wrestling II era) and said, how could nobody know who he is because how does he get paid, which for those days was a pretty intelligent question for a Mid South fan. Watts calmly on TV responded that they send a check to the masked guy at a P.O. Box, and the guy somehow must be able to get the check cashed because once the check is sent, Mid South doesn't worry about it

With Nitro switching from TNT to Bravo in the U.K., the shows have gone from being on a four-day delay to an 11 day delay. They are more heavily editing the show. For instance, when fans chant asshole, Bravo simply kills the sound and puts a message saying "We apologize for the loss of sound." Thunder no longer airs in the U.K

For the 11/16 show in Oberhausen, Germany, they have sold about 5,000 to 6,000 tickets, which is about half the tickets available, so it looks as though it won't be a sellout. Axel Schulz, a heavyweight boxer of some German name value, will be working the show as a guest ref. The show won't air as a PPV but will air live on a Pay-TV Channel called "Premier World.

. At a meet and greet in Sydney, Australia on 10/8 to build up the TV tapings, Chae was asked if she was still dating Kevin Nash, and she said that she was, so I guess when Nash a few weeks back on TV said he was going out after the show to "eat a little Korean," I guess that publicly puts one and one together (pretty much everyone knew but I think personal life is personal life unless the participants comment on it publicly, which makes it public, or it affects professional life in some form, which as public figures in a business making money off support of the public, makes it public). Chae also said that Hogan would be back soon

DDP did an internet post. He admitted he went to Russo and Siegel for a contract buy-out and said they gave him permission to talk with McMahon and Ross. He said he had a great conversation with Ross but never met with either he or McMahon in person due to their tight schedule and said he never spoke with McMahon directly. WCW wanted him back for the 9/25 Nitro in Nassau where it was openly talked about that he would return. He went to Siegel again, said he was willing to be released, but wasn't willing to walk away from the money owed him. Eventually, he said that in the meeting with Siegel, DDP proposed that both he and Kimberly be bought out for 55 cents on the dollar for the remainder of their contract, which between the two of them and the remaining years, would have left close to $1 million on the table. WCW turned that down. He said he expects to be back after Havoc and said he'd like to re-start his feud with Kanyon

Nash is expected to undergo knee surgery soon

Funk did an interview promoting "Beyond the Mat" in England, and in the interview, he said that he had two more dates under contract with WCW and after that was planning on going home and see if any offers come in

Booker's title win on 10/2 was the 20th WCW title change in the last 35 weeks. That's the same number of world title changes between the 31-year period between 1949 and 1980

Kaz Hayashi flew back to Japan to see the historic Tokyo Dome show

Thunder tapings on 10/3 in Long Beach, CA drew 3,764 fans, which was 1,254 paying $38,440. Nitro tapings on 10/7 in Brisbane, Australia drew about 9,000 fans, which was a good house but not a sellout. Thunder tapings on 10/9 in Sydney drew WCW's first sellout in recent memory with about 10,000 paid. House show on 10/10 in Sydney drew a nearly full house of about 9,000. Gates for the shows were probably close to all-time company records with ringside going for $250 in Brisbane and $300 for the first night in Sydney, but since they were sold shows, we don't have the figures. The second Sydney show was put together largely as a dry run for the Havoc PPV. In notes from the key matches, Douglas & Wilson beat Konnan & Tygress when Douglas franchised Tygress. Konnan said to be really over but the fans wouldn't boo Wilson. Rection beat Storm via DQ in what was said to be a good match with a lame (Storm hit him with a belt) ending. Cat pinned Sanders in a blah match. Steiner won a Battle Royal, based on Royal Rumble rules where guys came in at various intervals. Most of the guys were props. Nash came in, got to throw out everyone in the ring. Duggan came out to a big pop and played face. It was really a stand around and wait deal at the end, since Steiner came in last, and then threw everyone out to earn the title shot later in the show. Misterio Jr. & Kidman lost to O'Haire & Jindrak in a very good match, which was big-time carried by Misterio Jr. & Kidman. Sting pinned Jarrett with the death drop in a match with a lot of heat and Jarrett carried it to a good bout. Charles Robinson stopped Jarrett from using the guitar. Goldberg beat Kronik in the handicap match. Goldberg got a far bigger reaction than anyone else on the show. Nothing to the match until Greco's run-in, because Greco accidentally slipped, everyone laughed. He threw a kick at Adams and Goldberg speared and jackhammered him. Then he jackhammered Clark after. A fan on the way out spat on Goldberg, who freaked and slapped him. The previous night someone hit Goldberg with a cardboard Star of David. Steiner came out and dragged a fan over the barrier and delivered a few punches to the back of the head. No word if it was a plant, but those who reported on the show thought it was. When the guys go to foreign countries, they feel immune to the lawsuit factor that permeates their minds in the U.S. so are more willing to physically attack fans. Several more fans tried to jump the rail after him. What made people think it was a work is that Booker then did a promo and alluded to what happened. T pinned Seiner with the uranage. Said to be a great house show, much better than the TV tapings because of the lack of the garbage.

WWF: Undertaker is looking at having an operation to remove his gall bladder after a bout with gall stones which would keep him out of action an undetermined period of time and has been removed from all bookings and is likely off the 10/22 PPV, which as of a few days ago, he was still figured into

That show will be headlined by Rock vs. Angle, Benoit vs. HHH and Rikishi vs. Austin. They should keep the latter match short, but I'm sure everyone is aware of that

Raw on 10/9 from Anaheim. Show was built around the revelation that Rikishi was the driver. That's only step one in a lengthy angle with a lot of twists and turns, probably ending with Rock vs. Austin at WM. Foley spent the whole show doing detective work, largely heelish, and getting mixed reactions, until fingering Rikishi at the end. It was a pretty good show with some unexpected crowd reactions, mainly Rikishi really not getting booed when revealing himself as the driver and Guerrero getting the majority of cheers when coming out of the shower with the ho's and breaking Chyna's heart. The women despised him, but they only make up 30% of the audience, and the core teenagers and young males thought it was the coolest thing around. Michaels returned. He's clearly been training and has openly said he will be coming back. Nothing is a lock but there's been talk of him wrestling HHH at Mania. Michaels ended up saying he didn't do it, but he blamed Rock. Lita pinned Jackie in a hardcore match after using a fire extinguisher and cookie sheet. Chyna and Debra talked about weddings and honeymoons. They matter of factly revealed Debra had just married Austin. I guess they figure everyone knows, but the Austin character that relates to the people doesn't relate well with the knowledge he has a wife who looks like that. Foley interrogated Debra based on the idea that she could have hit him because she wanted him home more. Debra's acting is so bad she makes Linda McMahon look like Meryl Streep and Stephanie look like Sandra Bullock. Blackman beat Raven with a high kick. Crowd was dead for this. Foley interrogated Linda, who still looked like Streep next to Debra. Benoit & X-Pac beat Jericho & HHH when HHH crotched himself and fell into be pinned by Benoit. Very good match with the weakest looking finish. HHH sure has figured out the swerve of doing jobs that nobody believes. HHH demanded a match with Benoit and Foley put it on the PPV. Hardys beat Lo Down in a tag title match when Brown had Jeff pinned but Matt came off the top with a Cameron, NC Jam and put Jeff on top. Chaz laid out Jeff with the belt after. Snow beat Test in one of the most entertaining segments on any show in months. Snow came out representing Greece, but instead acted as if he was from the movie "Grease." Between that and Regal on commentary, this was well beyond side splitting. Test nearly killed Snow with a high kick. Crowd wasn't into the match but the two had a good match with Snow winning after a head shot. Guerrero, who nobody could find, teamed with Chyna against Venis & Goodfather. GTV aired with Guerrero coming out of the shower with Mandy and Victoria. Crowd cheered Guerrero big-time for betraying Chyna. Chyna did the greatest acting job of her life acting pissed. It was so realistic as she stood there in this trance. Guerrero ended up getting pinned and chasing after Chyna, who threw down her engagement ring and drove off. Gunn told of Guerrero, and Guerrero ended up hitting him with a bottle. Rock & Rikishi beat Kane & Angle. Bad match actually. Angle was rarely in but they teased dissension again. Kane choke slammed Rikishi and then choke slammed Angle who wanted to tag and get the pin. Kane walked out. Angle hit the Olympic slam on Rikishi, but Rock gave Angle the Rock bottom and Rikishi sat on him for the pin in 7:23. Foley came out and teased he was going to finger Rock, but at the last minute said Rock wasn't guilty, and said it was Rikishi, because earlier Scotty 2 Hotty talked about partying with Rikishi in Detroit that night, and Foley said how Rikishi wasn't even in the WWF at the time (he had been doing dark matches but wasn't doing the Rikishi character). Rikishi admitted it, and said he did it on his own (fat chance), to help Rock, because the WWF never let the islanders headline and the stars were always great white hopes like Buddy Rogers (who was a heel), Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund (he forgot Pedro Morales because it doesn't fit the story), Hulk Hogan (which got a scary big pop) and Austin and by getting rid of Austin, it gave Rock the opportunity to be the top star. He said how the island boys like himself, Samu, Tonga Kid, Afa, Sika, Snuka and Maivia were never allowed to be big stars. There was tons of flawed logic (Yokozuna was champ a couple of times, although he wasn't billed as an islander). Enough that this might as well have been a Russo angle. The whole gimmick when Rock and Austin were feuding is that Austin was the champion the company didn't want but couldn't beat and Rock was the hand picked corporate champions and that dates back more than a year before the deal and Rock had already held the title several times. The choice of Rikishi was certainly controversial as they didn't elevate a young guy when they had the chance, and overtly played the race card, which left the show with a bad taste in a lot of people's mouth. The idea it was a good idea because nobody suspected Rikishi so people were fooled is the kind of logic Russo would use. The reason nobody suspected Rikishi is because it wouldn't have the impact as if it were a Michaels or a Vince or even a Jericho and people wanted impact. Lots of people were talking about it after it was over, however

Rikishi has been noticeably bothered by right knee problems over the past week which have been diagnosed as knee tendinitis. He's taking anti-inflammatory drugs to get through the next few weeks because of his big match coming. Because of his weight and age, his knees and ankles are going to be a problem and it's probably best for his career, even if not for his unique gimmick, to drop a lot of weight

There have already been negotiations to bring Rulon Gardner to the WWF, but at this point talks have broken off. Gardner was asking for a $1 million signing bonus and a $2 million per year guaranteed contract and both sides broke off talks shortly after those figures were thrown out. Gardner hardly has the can't miss look, and WWF isn't going to upset its salary structure with a commitment like that. The gold medal, even though it got tons of mainstream media play as far as being the most publicized victory mainstream in the history of American wrestling, probably means less today than it would at any point in pro wrestling history because of fans looking at pro wrestling less like a sport and thus real sports backgrounds aren't as important in getting someone over. One can argue that they are still important in that a top level athlete is used to the mental process of training hard and sacrificing to remain in shape and being dedicated to the task at hand that someone without that background likely wouldn't have, but that's more the mental discipline aspect of being a top athlete or being mentally disciplined as opposed to being a gold medal winner of All-pro linebacker where the credential itself would mean box office like it would have in another era. Nevertheless, the success of Kurt Angle has certainly both fueled interest of top amateurs into going pro, and of the WWF into being more active in recruiting top amateurs. But as far as a marquee look, Gardner doesn't have what Angle, Brock Lesnar, Sylvester Terkey and Sheldon Benjamin, the recent top amateurs that are under contract, have. Thus he's more suited for Japan, where the credential would mean more, or the shootfighting world if that's an avenue he'd be interested in because he could command a lot of money for an appearance and he's a large powerful man who probably couldn't be taken down and mounted very easily, but he'd also have to learn a lot of new skills and be able to defend strikes or take someone down quickly because at his size, he'd be a target because he probably wouldn't move quickly even though he has tremendous real-life stamina that belies his not exactly cut physique

There has also been preliminary discussions and negotiations regarding Kerry McCoy, the freestyle American superheavyweight, who placed fifth

Regarding Dennis Dunn, who passed away last week at the age of 76, he was the Executive Producer of WWF television during the period when Vince Sr. owned the company and continued in the early years of Vince Jr.'s taking over, including being the producer of Tuesday Night Titans in the mid-80s. He had remained until his death as a consultant for the company and as mentioned last week, his son Kevin heads television production

Both News Corporation (FOX) and Warner Brothers have pulled all ads for "R" rated movies from Smackdown largely due to the recent FTC report which accuses so many industries that are supposedly not geared for children with directly targeted children in their marketing. The idea from both groups is that any show where more than 35% of the audience is children, and very few prime-time shows even fit into that category, would be off-limits for "R" movie ads

Rocky Johnson, father of Rock, is under police investigation for theft and harassment. In an article in the 10/4 Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Johnson, 56, is accused of making improper comments and hugging women at the Pine Island Community Center where he worked as an activities leader and supervised the weight room in his $9.11 an hour job as a part-time town employee, as well as taking home a $200 boxing dummy, although Johnson's lawyer, Daniel Aaronson, said that was a misunderstanding and that a supervisor told Johnson to take the dummy home to transport it to another town fitness center the next morning. What made this a news story wasn't so much it was Rock's father, or that Johnson was a well-known wrestler in Florida in the 70s, but that Davie, FL Mayor Harry Venis, who is being trained by Johnson to wrestle, actually drove Johnson to his interview for the job and sat in on the interview. Town officials began looking at both sets of accusations before turning it over to the police. At this point, no charges have been filed by the police. Johnson was hired to supervise the weight room on 5/31. He had moved from his long-time home in Tampa in February to live closer to Dwayne, who lives in Davie, and help train Venis. Venis said that maybe he shouldn't have sat in on the interview, but said his influence didn't get Johnson the job, which he said he was totally overqualified for, noting how many applicants for a job running a weight room for $9.11 per hour have 25-year background as a professional athlete. Venis also said that many job applicants that use his name as a reference don't get the job. Johnson was scheduled to be promoted to full-time this week, but on 9/21, was suspended with pay when complaints surfaced he had taken a boxing dummy home and made offensive comments to women. Venis and Johnson are partners in an indie promotion called All-Star Wrestling promotions and will be opening up a gym in Davie. Eddie Hanson, the summer program supervisor, was critical of Johnson claiming he was using his ties with Venis. "Rocky sent the message out right away he was Teflon. He'd threaten to call the mayor if he didn't like you, and people were afraid for their jobs." The story got major media play because it made for a good story for political opponents of Venis, to show he used his influence to get his trainer a job and then the guy screwed up. The fact his son is a major celebrity was not the reason for so much media play

The William Morris Agency responded to the WWFE lawsuit by claiming the suit was diversionary, saying it notified the WWF on 9/21 that they had failed to pay commissions since the original contract signed in 1997 came WMA a percentage of revenues from every new WWF project, which would include the Viacom deal and the NBC deal. The agency claimed the suit was a "transparent attempt to relieve themselves of legally binding financial obligations." Morris was quoted as saying the WWF made outrageous allegations by falsely claiming its practices to be fraudulent and its contracts illegal and unenforceable

A few notes from Smackdown taped on 10/3. Overall I thought it was a very entertaining show with a lot of good TV wrestling (Hardys & Lita vs. Lo Down & Jackie, Benoit vs. Jericho, Angle & E&C vs. Cool & Rikishi and even Rock vs. Kane was probably better than you'd think). The angles all seemed like they were going somewhere. Austin-Foley confrontation was pretty good. Only major point was that Stephanie and HHH argued after HHH told Stephanie to go home and she instead helped Angle. It was funny hearing Stephanie do an interview that was so "Vince" it was eerie. Anyway, Angle later asked Stephanie as a business arrangement to be in his corner permanently because he appreciated her value. She said she'd think about it. HHH appeared to have bladed in the Benoit angle which is rare for Smackdown, since the show is totally toned down now and non-controversial for the most part. Funny stuff in the Austin-Foley angle was Austin talking about not wrestling and not getting paid and talking about worrying about where his next meal was coming from. Somehow even the most naive fans probably have a hard time accepting that Austin's income dropped over the last year to, even with an expensive divorce, where having enough money to buy his meals is problematic to him. The other was the almost child like response continually to Bush and Gore not debating on Smackdown. First off, if they were to appear on that show, it would make them look like absolute fools to the general public. Lawler talked about how they could be viewed by 14 million voters if they came on Smackdown, and aside from the fact 14 million was a totally worked number to begin with, it is supposed to be the number for all telecasts combined. For Smackdown, there are about 7.3 million viewers, nearly 40 percent of whom are under voting age, so the real figure of eligible voters that would watch Smackdown is about 4.4 million

Big Show now has a shaved head for his feud with Leviathan in Ohio Valley Wrestling. Show has been doing Jim Cornette scripted interviews in OVW which are hilarious because much of the phraseology comes from 1970s Jerry Lawler interviews. Although he has yet to wrestle on television, they started to do videos in OVW to introduce Brock Lesnar, perhaps to start with a natural program with Collector (1993 NCAA champ) and their first angle aired on 9/30 as Lesnar saved Shelton Benjamin (his former coach, who, barring injury, is going to turn into an excellent worker when he gets more experience) from Collector. Lesnar was lacking (remember, this is day one) in facials but looks like a powerhouse. He launched, and I mean launched into orbit, Jerome Kronie, who, admittedly is about 185 pounds with a double underhook suplex with him flipping in mid-air (much of this is Kronie's sell but it looked great)

. MTV is going to bill its Sunday night programming block as "Jackass Sunday," based on a 30 minute show called "Jackass." MTV was thrilled because the debut of "Jackass" did a 1.8 rating, a number almost as strong as the 2.0 Heat brought to the station. The idea is that starting on 10/29, there will be a name musical act that will perform on Heat, starting with Slipknot, and that band will play a later set at probably 9-9:30 p.m. as part of an MTV Sunday night concert series that'll debut that evening

As has been widely anticipated for some time, WWF is going to launch an independent music label, "Smackdown Records," which will sign some new hard rock acts and promote them to wrestling fans on television shows as well as do ring entrance compilation records, starting in early 2001

Shawn Michaels has stated, no ifs, ands or buts, that he will wrestle again. He said that he wouldn't be able to wrestle as good as he used to, but he would still be able to be competitive at a high level

Charlie & Russ Haas signed developmental deals and are scheduled to start in Memphis in January. The two have been impressive in dark matches and have both amateur wrestling and gymnastics background

Forbes Magazine ran a lengthy profile on the WWF and the McMahon family. It couldn't have been more positive. They talked about Shane falling 50 feet at the SummerSlam show (well, he did fall a long way, but 50 is a bit of an exaggeration). They claim 50 million fans worldwide (which doesn't sound like an inflated claim if you're talking about worldwide, since it pales next to that totally exaggerated half a billion number they used to do on the old TV openings). The story noted there will be settlement hearings in mid-October (actually before you read this as they were scheduled for mid-week in Kansas City after this week's TV tapings) in the Owen Hart wrongful death lawsuit and that the company hopes it will be settled out of court shortly. When talking about his 80s fight with the various regional promoters, McMahon said, "I banked on the fact that they were behind the times, and they were. All of them." It once again propagated the myth that Vince in the mid-80s admitted wrestling was scripted entertainment and business exploded. Actually McMahon's admission in 1989 had no effect on the business, either positive or negative. Business had a strong year that year but it was because they presented a compelling product and not because of any media headlines. Those who expected it to kill the business, and in 1989 many people actually did, were woefully lacking in understanding of the public at the time. But the peak years of the first boom were before the announcement. The bust period starting in 1992 came three years later and also can't be attributed to it. While the admission made page one of the New York Times, it, as far as a story changing the popularity level of the business, wasn't a story at all. Vince claimed that watching four-year-old Shane play with G.I. Joe's led him to believe pro wrestlers would make great action figures. It couldn't have been that for a decade plus before, pro wrestlers in Japan and Mexico already had made great action figures, could it? The story continued the fantasy that WCW lured Hulk Hogan away from the WWF, and that the McMahons responded by reducing the amount of time wrestling on the show and replaced it with storylines to make their late 90s comeback, as if that wasn't something they had already done with many of their programs in the 80s, although the storylines in recent years were certainly different than the 80s. The article claimed house shows "almost always sell out" (they sell out more than half the live events, but 63% over the year 1999 doesn't constitute almost always), but also claimed the live events are money losers, saying the ticket sales barely cover the cost of production. At $350,000 per house plus maybe $80,000 more in merchandise, the house shows are very profitable. Sure, if you want to take the cost of production of television out of the live gate on the Monday and Tuesday shows, you probably could manipulate them into losses, but those costs should be taken out of the revenues produced by the television in ads and rights fees, which are far more than production, so the idea WWF house shows aren't profitable is a joke. The story ended with McMahon dismissing L. Brent Bozell as someone having a name that if he was doing a storyline, he'd make up. Bozell called McMahon a despicable person who makes Larry Flynt look honorable and vowed to have some surprises coming for McMahon

The Boston Globe reported that among the 30 bidders on the Boston Red Sex, who publicly put the team up for sale on Friday, was McMahon

Notes from the Ross Report. Rock was in Los Angeles this week taping at NBC sitcom that stars David Allen Grier and Delta Burke. Road Dogg missed the weekend bookings to remain at home and care for his wife. Ross reported that Taka Michinoku is expected back in November unless he needs shoulder surgery, which would delay that return considerably. Michinoku was at the New Japan Tokyo Dome show on 10/9 and was visibly depressed, saying that he needs surgery and that the doctors have told him his career is in jeopardy at the age of 26. He is living in Puerto Rico and opened up a Kaientai Wrestling School, wanting to train wrestlers for the Michinoku Pro organization

Bob Holly's medical clearance date is 11/13 while Big Bossman should be back before you read this after getting his knee scoped. The Dudleys are shooting a THQ video game commercial next week. WWF is planning a photo shoot in Jamaica with Chyna, Stratus, Tori, Debra, Terri, Kat, Jackie, Lita and Ivory. Jim Ross will be on Regis from 10/23 to 10/27 every morning with a different WWF wrestler to plug his upcoming cookbook

Mark Henry and Big Show are being weighed in every Friday in OVW. On 10/6, Henry checked in at 360, down from about 415 when he arrived. They want him at 325 but are willing to bring him back if he gets down to maybe 340. Show was at 470. They want him at 375. He was given an ultimatum that they won't even consider bringing him back until he at least gets down to 400, which eliminates him at this point from being in the Austin angle. Show signed a ten-year deal at just under $1 million per year downside guaranteed because McMahon thought he had this generation's version of Andre the Giant as an attraction, and for various reasons, one of which is simply different things get over in different eras, it just didn't happen. Henry also signed a ten-year deal coming out of the Olympics with the thought they had a sure-fire attraction since Ken Patera was such a huge star a generation earlier with a similar background. There is a contract clause that requires both men to be in top physical condition, and with Henry, at this point, the feeling is he's making a great effort but with Show, the jury is out

The cable in Edmonton on 10/9 did air the TNN Raw feed live even though the TV Guide listed Starsky & Hutch in the time slot, and this was head-to-head with TSN showing the same show

Caryn Mawr (Muffy) was officially given her release

In the U.K. for the past week, Raw drew 440,000 viewers, Metal drew 120,000, Unforgiven repeat drew 190,000 and Smackdown drew 160,000

Smackdown tapings on 10/3 in Baltimore drew a sellout 11,659 paying $352,342. House show on 10/7 in San Jose drew a sellout 16,985 paying $494,256. They had a split crew on 10/8 as the show in San Diego drew 10,636 paying $277,336 and Fresno, CA drew 9,665 paying $263,875. Raw on 10/9 at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim drew a sellout 12,040 paying $416,390. House show merchandise for the week was $477,278 or $7.83 per head. Some notes from the San Jose show. It was a really good house show. Overall. A lot of quick fast-paced matches before a huge enthusiastic crowd. Crowd for a non-TV taping is a lot rowdier and a lot closer to an old-time wrestling crowd (less family oriented, rougher but I wouldn't call it dangerous) but they were a lot more into the matches themselves. It was a 10-match show. Nothing was longer than 9:39 and most matches ranged from 4:00 to 7:00. Debra was there which got a big reaction when she said that the puppies were back. She was wearing an outfit, slits up each leg, that a 40-year-old woman probably shouldn't be wearing. Raven worked hard and had a good hardcore match with Blackman that got a lot more crowd reaction than Blackman matches usually get, but he's getting a lot more response as they push his signature hardcore match spots. Crowd popped big when he pulled out the fighting sticks. Short match, like all the matches were, but better than expected. Goodfather & Buchanan vs. Acolytes was fast. Not good, but even this was fast paced and intense, just kind of sloppy. The pop for Gunn, since he was unannounced, was actually the second biggest on the show behind Austin. He and Venis botched up basically the entire first minute of the

match almost to the point where they were having trouble keeping a straight face because of how, on not only different pages, but different planets they seemed to be on. They settled down and the last three minutes of the four minute match were fine with Gunn going over. E&C & Jackie over Hardys & Lita was the best match on the show. E&C got I'd say 55 to 60 percent cheers, although nobody booed Hardys and Lita. Funaki vs. Rios was a short popcorn match. Crowd not really into it. Rios bled hardway. Dudleys over T&A in a tables match was pretty good. Test did a wicked high kick to D-Von. Buh Buh power bombed Test through a table to win. Stratus was given the house shows off to recover from her promotional tour of England in mid-week. Austin's angle was that he started to do an interview when Richards and Venis came out. He stunned Venis. He threw a few punches and stunned Richards and both sold while Austin drank about a dozen beers. Austin got the most physically involved to date on Richards and I'd say he looked basically the same as he looked just before he went down. Richards was somewhat green as far as taking the stuff. Jericho over X-Pac was a very good match, second best on the show, ending with Gunn doing the famouser on X-Pac for the Jericho win. Main was HHH & Rikishi (subbing for Undertaker) over Angle & Kane in what was billed as a street fight match, but everyone wore their wrestling outfits and worked exactly like a regular tag. Good match. Kane and Angle teased dissension throughout with Angle before the match apologizing for hitting Kane with a chair on Smackdown. Finally, Kane choke slammed Angle and walked out, and the ending saw HHH pin Angle after a pedigree. Should be noted most of the match was HHH vs. Angle, and aside from one overhead belly-to-belly, Angle got no offense in. It was almost like one of those old Ric Flair vs. juiced up guy matches circa 1988 where Flair sells everything and carries the guy. The only difference is that Angle isn't Flair, and, HHH isn't a one-dimension stiff where that's the only way to get a match out of him is to oversell and beg. Brian Johnston of New Japan Pro Wrestling, who lives in San Jose, was at the show. San Diego was also headlined by Rikishi & HHH over Angle & Kane in the same street fight as a regular match type of deal and Austin stunning Venis and Richards. Fresno was headlined by Jericho over X-Pac clean with the walls and E&C & Jackie over Hardys & Lita. Regal did an angle with Slaughter similar to the one he's done in the past.